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The Ilonggos

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The Ilonggo’s prehistory is based primarily on the Maragtas, a document that tells of the arrival in Panay of Malay datus and their families from Borneo in 1250. As the narrative goes, the Bornean Malays came into contact with the Atis or Negritos, the inhabitants of the island at that time. They then negotiated with the latter for the “pagtaba” or purchase of the coastal areas where they intended to settle down. After the agreement, the newcomers established settlements along riverbanks and seacoasts while the Atis retreated into the island’s interiors. Some scholars however, consider the Maragtas as mere folk history because it has about six versions and is interlaced with events and stories quite fantastic to be true (Ponteras 1978). More revealing is that archaeological evidences found in some places in Iloilo Province showing the material possessions of Iloilo’s ancient inhabitants indicate that they were as old as the hills and valleys in the area. Considerable cultural materials of proto-historic vintage, particularly Chinese porcelain wares, recovered from different archaeological sites,also reveal the Ilonggos’ extensive trade with the Chinese and other Asians before the supposed coming of the ten Borneo datus.

The Ilonggos trade relations with the Chinese and other Asians started from the 10th century and flourished up to the 16th century upon the arrival of the Spanish colonizers in the country. Excavated trade ware further indicates that some of the early Ilonggos ate from porcelain plates, not coconut shells as claimed by some scholars; that they lived in permanent settlements and were engaged in the production of crops and crafts; that they had a system of writing, and that they were no longer afraid of foreigners. So, it is not really possible that they were the primitive Atis that the Bornean Malays came in contact with, in the mid-13th century. Some early Spanish writers like Francisco Colin, Miguel de Loarca and Antonio de Morga attested to the fact that the Ilonggos already enjoyed certain degree of civilization at the time of the Spanish contact. According to the Spaniards, the Ilonggos built boats of “very different shapes and names” which they used for fishing and transporting their wares.

They also manufactured fishing gears and traps made of bamboo; wove textiles from abaca, cotton and Chinese silk; carved artistic objects and images of their dead ancestors and made very attractive bodily ornaments. They were expert silversmiths and coppersmiths, hammering soft materials into jewelry and ornaments for their tools and weapons. They had furthermore, their own alphabet, music and musical instruments, songs and dances, and legends and stories. As to who the people were, what is known is that they were initially called by the Spaniards as Pintados because of their body tattoos, both men and women, which at a distance looked like body painting. Nevertheless, not long after, the Spaniards recognized at least two distinctive groups—the Ati and what most scholars (Beyer et al) designated as Malay, who may have come from Borneo (Coutts and Fullagar nd). At the time of their arrival in the mid-16th century, the Spaniards had already noted a number of well-populated communities in several places in Iloilo that had flourishing intra- and inter-island trade. Culture

The essential components of Ilonggo culture are language, oral literature (epics, myths, legends, proverbs, etc.), songs and dances, handicrafts, old churches and houses, and famous delicacies. The Ilonggo language is basically Hiligaynon and Kinaray-a, the latter with its numerous variations in the interior sections of the province. Ilonggo literature consists of hurubaton, paktakon, sugidanon (epics), lowa, and others, many of which have survived up to the present time. Of course, the most known literature related to Ilonggos is the Maragtas, a folk history on the coming of the ten Bornean datus and their families to Panay.

Ilonggo songs are mainly composos or ballads about love and adventure, lullaby melodies (Ili-ili is the best example), and other folk songs, usually accompanied by either percussion, wind or string instruments. Traditional dances that have been recorded by the Spaniards are the harito, balitaw, liay, lalong kalong, imbong, inay-inay, and binanog. Some of these dances are still being performed today. Ilonggo culture is also manifested in the people’s penchant for colorful and luxurious celebrations. The Ilonggo always finds an occasion to show his material affluence and his famous brand of hospitality. This explains why other than the religious feasts like the patronal fiestas, Flores de Mayo and Santacruzan, the Ilonggos have also indulged themselves in many festivals, aside from the world famous Dinagyang in Iloilo City and Maskara in Bacolod City. Traditions

Mention must be made of Ilonggo zarzuela, the most popular form of vernacular entertainment in Western Visayas in the first half of the 20th century. The zarzuela is a traditional musical stage play depicting the everyday life and aspirations of the Ilonggos that made famous a number of local writers. It also catapulted into prominence the Iloilo-Bacolod Troupe (ILOBAC) that performed before capacity audiences in the cities and municipalities of Iloilo and Negros Occidental. With regard to handicrafts, the one that is considered the “queen”, both in the past and in the present, is weaving. For a while, during the late 18th century and early 19th centuries, Iloilo was referred to as the “Textile Capital of the Philippines”. Its woven products made of piña fibers, cotton, silk and abaca were exported abroad, as well as to Manila and other parts of Luzon and the Visayas. Iloilo is also known formulated its pottery-making, bolo-making and bamboo crafts. During the Spanish period, it was well-known as the center of boat-building in the Visayas, especially the town of Oton and the island of Guimaras. In fact, according to Spanish record, there were galleons used by the Spaniards built in these places. Traits

The Ilonggos since time past have been noted for being “matinlo.” In fact, their personal cleanliness and of the rest of the Filipino people for that matter always attracted the attention of the Spaniards who came early to the Philippines. They noted that the villages were mostly situated along river banks or in mouths of rivers spilling out into the sea. The newcomers thought that the main reason for this was the natives’ fondness for bathing which, or course, is partly correct. The river and the sea were sources of protein food through its teeming marine life. Transporting goods and people from the interior villages to the seacoasts and vice-versa was easier by “bangka” (wooden boat) or by “balsa” (bamboo raft) down and up the river. Among the traits of the Ilonggo that the Spaniards had high regards was their being “mapisan” or industrious. Casimiro Diaz, for example, in a detailed account on ecclesiastical and Augustinian affairs, 1630-1640, described the people of Panay as “naturally docile than any other of the pintados, very industrious in their rice farms” (Diaz 1890).

A French traveler, Jean Mallat, also praised the inhabitants as “the most industrious” (Mallat 1846). It is precisely because of the industry of the inhabitants of Panay that the island, according to Miguel de Loarca, Antonio de Morga and Juan Medina, was abundant in rice (Blair & Robertson 1903-1909 and De Morga 1962). This was the reason why Panay, particularly Iloilo, became of interest to the Spanish conquistadores from the very start of their colonization of the archipelago. Aside from rice, Iloilo, according to De Loarca, also “abounded in swine, fowls, wax and honey” (Blair & Robertson 1903-1909) and, as observed by De Morga, was “abundant in wine-producing palm-trees and all kinds of food supplies” (De Morga 1962). Moreover, there is strong evidence that Iloilo was producing a great quantity of cotton and other textile fabrics (Blair & Robertson 1903-1909). The Ilonggos were also noted by the Spanish colonizers as “maisog” or fearless and courageous. Life prior to the coming of the Spaniards had sufficient warfare and provided opportunities for men to prove their courage and boldness and win for themselves accolades and the tattoos which caused the Spaniards to call them Pintados.

The chieftains’ ability to procure iron or prestigious goods from foreign traders depended on control of the manpower to exploit resources. Wars were therefore fought to control people and resources, not territory. Raids upon other communities were intended to seize slaves outright, to initiate or enforce alliances for trading networks, to take booty that included young women, and to punish those who had done wrong on the aggrieved party. Wars were fought not by standing armies or navies but by loyal warriors owing personal allegiance to leaders who were also physically present and active in these bloody encounters (Scott 1995). It must be understood that valor in battle was a basic requisite to becoming a “datu.” Ilonggos, also have a sterling reputation of being affectionate, friendly, and happy. Food

Ilonggo culture is reflected in the wide range of its culinary delights, as in the case of Batchoy, pancit molo, baye-baye, biscocho, inday-inday, binakol, bandi, piyaya, and pinasugbo. Batchoy apparently has become a national passion, a case of Ilonggo cultural colonization. This delightful concoction, usually advertised as “Original La Paz Batchoy”, can now be found anywhere in the Philippines – in the far north as the Ilocos region and in the far south as Tawi-tawi. It is observed, however, that the batchoy taste in Iloilo could never be duplicated elsewhere – it can only be approximated. Batchoy prepared by non-Ilonggos in other places taste more like mami rather than the real thing.



“Bagobo” comes from “bago” meaning “new, recent” and “obo/obbo/uvu” meaning “growth, grow,” so that the term refers to a recent formation of people along the coast of the Davao Gulf. When the Hinduized people from the south brought in Hindu culture during the Sri Vijayan and Majapahit penetration of Mindanao, these migrants mixed with the native population, forming a new society reflected in the name “Bagobo.” The term may loosely apply to the coastal people of Davao Gulf, especially those native groups on the western shores of southeastern Davao. These groups include several ethnicities, such as the Tagabawa, Jangan or Attaw, and Tagacaolo. Spanish missionaries and early ethnographers tended to identify them all as one group because they had common articles of material culture, such as dress and ornaments, tools, blades, and musical instruments.

Immigrants from other places also tended to include the Manuvu among the Bagobo groups. The ascription is erroneous, for the Manuvu live in the upland areas northwest, north, and northeast of Mt. Apo in interior Mindanao. Furthermore, all the above named ethnic groups speak mutually unintelligible languages. The Bagobo are light brown in complexion. Their hair is brown or brownish black, ranging from wavy to curly. The men stand about 158 cm tall, the women 147 cm. Although the face is wide, the cheekbones are not prominent. The eyes are dark and widely set, the eye slits slanting. The eyebrows are deliberately shaved to a thin line by both male and female. The root of the nose is low, the ridge broad. The lips are full, the chin rounded. Population estimate of the Bagobo in 1988 was 80,000 Culture

The Bagobos are famous for their ornate traditions in weaponry and other metal arts and noted for their skill in producing brass articles through the ancient lost-wax process. Their skill in weaving one of the best abaca cloths of earth tones is also among the great things that impress both locals and tourists alike. Up to the present, the Bagobo are considered the predominant dwellers of the west coast of Davao Gulf to the mountain ranges of Mt. Apo where they have engraved their colorful customs and traditions. Mt. Apo, or Apo Sandawa, also serves as their sacred worship grounds. Being animist, the Bagobos believe in ancestral spirits who could grant their desire through offering of sacrifices. Prayers are offered in rare rituals accompanied by chanting and dancing.

Bagobos have a strong social structure that has enabled them to blend well with others while retaining their indigenous customs, beliefs and values. This cultural identity is imparted in Kadayawan Festival held every August in Davao City. The event has become a venue where hundreds of them bring out and flaunt their dances and songs and rituals that has been fervently and proudly passed from generation to generation. Today, some Bagobos have gone a long way from their primitive practices and have attained a substantial degree of self-sufficiency. But while some have embraced modern life and abandoned their tribal roots, there is still a great number that have remained strongly engrossed in the music of kulintangs and gongs, in the solemn chants and harvest rituals, attired in colorful dresses, in the stomping of feet on the ground while dancing, and in everything that makes up the Bagobo culture. Traditions

Bagobo have ornate traditions in weaponry and other metal arts. They are noted for their skill in producing brass articles through the ancient lost-wax process. They also weave abacca cloths of earth tones and make baskets that are trimmed with beads, fibers and horse’s hair. Sibulan was the center of all the Bagobo tribes when the Spaniards try to conquer the island of Mindanao at the end of the nineteenth century. The Spaniards gave this region its name; the Land of Sibuls or land of numerous springs. Long time ago a group of Spanish soldiers met a group Bagobo women carrying bamboo tubes, tools they used to fetch water from the many springs in the area. None of the women understood the soldiers when they were asked what the name of the place was. The women thought the Spaniards were asking them for the source of the water, so they replied, Sibuls, meaning spring. The Bagobo are by origin a nomadic tribe, they travelled from one place to the other by hacking their way through the virgin forests.

The region was abundant with cogonal land with tall trees and had a wide area of hunting grounds. The bow and arrow were used both in hunting wild boar, deer or monkeys and fishing in crystal pure waters gushing from the slopes of Mount Apo. Apo means grandfather of all mountains and is the highest mountain peak in the Philippines. The land was also cultivated with various crops, but left behind after harvest time in search of a better place to cultivate. The inhabitants in the early settlements feared the Anitos, spirits, which include deceased ancestors and nature-spirits or diwatas, who could grant their desire through offering of sacrifices. Their religion is an array of innumerable gimokods (spirits) who have to be shown respect. The Bagobo also believe in a supreme being who inhabits the sky world, as well as a deity, a supernatural immortal being who will brings sickness and death to incestuous couples. The principal Spirit is the great creator named Eugpamolak Manobo or Manama. The knowledge of spirits and ancient legends resides in old tribal women, better known as mabalian, often they tell story of Tuwaang, a brave and strong warrior with different powers.

One legend recalls the fight between Tuwaang and a giant from the land of Pinanggayungan. A maiden of the Buhong Sky who was fleeing from the giant of Pangumanon came across Tuwaang who was riding the sky on lighting. Tuwaang and the giant fought for the maiden, the giant used his magical powers and threw a flaming bar at Tuwaang. He was able to escape this ordeal by using his own magical ability and call the wind to fan the fire and let the giant be engulfed by his own flames. The mabalian are also the ritual practitioners which include healing, they are also skilled as weavers.The women weave abaca cloths with earthly tones, heavily embroidering it with beads and stitch work. They are known for their inlaid metal betel boxes, finished with bells and baskets that are trimmed with multi-colored beads, fibers and horses hair. The never ending jingling of the many tiny brass bells woven into the clothing became a Bagobo symbol. It is not rare that the heavily ornamented Bagobo are considered the most colourful people of the Philippines. The Bagobo believe in a supreme being who inhabits the sky world, as well as a deity who brings sickness and death to incestuous couples. The Bagobo are also known for their long epic poems, “tuwaang”.

The Bagobos are known to be firm believers of their supreme beings and are also known to be industrious and proud of their heritage. Foods
A common food served is known as “lyurot” or “lotlot,”, a native food cooked in bamboo. They usually cook their foods in bamboo. They are also knowne for their tasty chicken tenderized in its own juices and steamed inside a bamboo. Clothes

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